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b e d t i m e   s t o r y   n o. 2 3

:  l a n e   a s h f e l d t

little church, naas : a.lovatt

This is one I remember, because it's one where I fell: the pony-tailed music video guy on his way to being an ad man. Yeah, I know, I thought I was safe for sure.

He was the one who tried to teach me to eat because his friends were foodies. He was a little older than me, a thirtysomething with forty in view, while I was clinging tight to the last of my twenties. We had nothing to do when we met up at night because I didn't know how to hang around for hours and just have dinner, drink wine and talk about holidays in the south of France.

That summer I'd got out of the habit of proper food when I moved into a flat on my own. Before that, at the squatted Victorian house in Dalston with Martin and Roberto, Martin used to do all the cooking. He was a Madhur Jaffrey devotee who used copious amounts of obscure spices to disguise cheap vegetables bought at Ridley Road market.

But now I was fending for myself I hadn’t time for all that, and had invented a brilliant system to save time on shopping, cooking and washing up.

Buy multiple bags of frozen petit pois from corner shop. Cram into icebox. When hungry, just boil, drain, and serve with melted butter and salt. For a nutritious main meal, crumble vegetarian oxo cubes on top.

This gave me time to concentrate on more important stuff, like the short animated film I was trying to make. Hence the pony-tail, who I probably met at some workshop or screening or other. To me, he had the impossible glamour of being truly ‘in the business’, even if it was just making music videos, a subject he was thoroughly hacked off with. He’d rather be making ads for food, he said. And it would pay more.

One night the pony-tail came around bearing a bottle of red wine and asked if I had anything to eat. I told him proudly about my effortless system of nourishment, and made the mistake of offering him some boiled frozen peas. He looked concerned. He said I needed lessons on how to be a thirtysomething, before it was too late. This sounded amusing from where I was standing, so I went along with it.

We piled into his beat-up old car and drove to Sainsbury's in Camden Town, where he bought pasta, cream and salad, plus so much parmesan I worried he was thinking of moving in. I mean this was the second time I met him nearly. Third, tops. OK, he had his good points: he was not too bad in bed, and he was great at kissing. He didn't have that fear of not breathing some guys had; all that swimming in the South of France, perhaps. At the time I linked it to his knowledge of filmspeeds and f-stops — a special effect he carried around with him: personal timelapse. But he was keen on holding hands too, so perhaps he just spent his teen years more conventionally than me.

When I told him it felt odd going to the supermarket with a guy, he looked at me and said, why can’t I attract normal women? But the whole idea of shopping as a couple was alien to me. I mean, shopping is so awful, why would two of you want to do it?

Anyway we got the groceries back to mine and he made this pasta with cream sauce. I didn’t know how to make cream sauce so I watched. It was so easy it was almost cheating — I never made that one with the butter and white flour again.

But the parmesan he bought was yuk, it was the stuff out of a jar, not the one you grate. And when I cut my spaghetti in three inch lengths he looked at me funny, and I knew he thought this was a bad sign.

In the end we weren't around each other long enough to really get on each other’s nerves. We had a row over contraception. Usual thing: he didn't like condoms. He also liked to wear his jeans without underpants, which was at least slightly more original.

The puke flavoured parmesan was still in the cupboard long after he'd stopped coming round. Eventually I threw it out.

Next time I saw him, in a café one Sunday morning, I knew he had his contraception problem sorted. He was sitting next to this big blonde woman with a big blonde voice, and he had a fair-haired toddler wriggling on his knee.


copyright © 2005 lane ashfeldt
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